There’s no way I can refute every calumniation of me found online. Thankfully, I am daily losing more and more bitterness and learning to pray for my enemies. So, I am writing this blog post about my past not as an act of bitterness to those pastors in my Rear View Mirror, but rather as something my readers might find interesting. As many of my readers know, there are rumors out there that I failed at parish life and that is why I became a hermit. There are rumors that I was kicked out of all these parishes for being mean to people.
The email I discovered from 2012 disproves most of that. I was ordained in 2010. It is now 2021. I have been a priest almost 11 years. As the below email I sent to a bishop in 2012 proves, I (myself!) was already asking to leave parish life just two years into priesthood! Of course, anyone could ask me: “But then why did you become a parish priest if you didn’t want to be a parish priest?” My answer is simple: “Because I didn’t know I wasn’t going to be required to endanger the Eucharist.” The proof of this is found in the below email that I sent in 2012 to our bishop (neither the Archbishop who ordained me, nor my current Archbishop…so note well here I’m not starting any fights here.)
But I am including the below email to prove that I have been trying to leave parish life for nearly seven years before I was granted hermit status. Being jammed as a square peg back into a round hole was never my desire. Again, keep in mind I have been a priest for nearly 11 years and I wrote this email 9 years ago to my bishop (again, not my current bishop) asking to be a janitor before I get re-assigned to another Novus Ordo parish. The below email also explains why I moved to the Traditional Latin Mass exclusively and it may also why I no longer believe in “the hermeneutic of continuity.” Names are redacted for privacy:
Dear Bishop, 9 July 2012
Praised be Jesus Christ.
To this email, I have cced Msgr. S and my spiritual director, Fr. H…
I would like to explain what happened this weekend.
First, however, the good news: The good news is that Fr. V and I are getting along marvelously. We understand that the below issues are ones of conscience, not of friendship, which (at the time) remains unaffected. Moreover, the parish continues to give me many compliments and tremendously warm welcome.
Here is what happened this weekend: At the 10:30am Mass, an elderly man to whom I distributed communion received the host on his hands, walked away with it, and a few steps away, he accidently cracked the host right down the middle, consumed the half of the host that remained in his hands, and dropped the other half on the ground, which got lost under his feet. I picked it up after he had possibly trampled upon it. I made us check the bottom of his boots as he knelt there. We were both terribly embarrassed.
Furthermore, I made an announcement at the end of all Masses. With as much love but strength as possible, I explained what had happened, and why the Church still encourages reception on the tongue (cf. Bl. John Paul II and B16: “To touch the Sacred Species with their own hands and to distribute them is a privilege of the Ordained.”—JPII, Dominicae Cenae, 11.) I explained that the Church allows reception in the hands if it is done in front of the minister, so that people do not walk away with the Eucharist. I received many compliments after all Masses for my preaching, as well as for my strong but loving announcement on Eucharist practice.
However, today, it came to my attention that the elderly man is a recent convert to the Catholic Faith, and that, due to this weekend’s incident, he is now thinking of leaving the Catholic Church because he was so embarrassed.
Although I feel very bad for him, I have no regrets about announcing what I did. My conscience allowed me no other option, and you may find this surprising, but I believe people will continue to leave the Catholic Church under my fear of the Eucharist. In retrospect, I could not change anything that I said, despite the undesired outcome. (I will meet with the gentleman, having compassion for his lack of formation that probably was not his fault.)
But this repeated incident yet again telescopes into the fact that this is no longer a matter of formation, but one of conscience that has an immediate fork in the road ahead. To understand my predicament and request that follows, please understand a bit of the history of how this Eucharistic sensitivity came about, and why I can not shake myself of it: As you know, I learned the Extraordinary Form of the Mass early in my priesthood. However, my conscience will now not let me apply any less care to a host that is consecrated under the Ordinary Form than a host that is consecrated under the Extraordinary Form, except for valid differences encouraged by Vatican II (very few that I can actually find.)
I am not trying to be a neo-conservative or to threaten disobedience, for I highly value obedience and am trying my very very best, often brought to tears to be obedient to both Rome and Denver (under her normal pastors.) However, it is not working. I believe at this point, there are two possible theses as to what is happening in my life:
1) Like St. Athanatius, I am the only one who gets this Eucharistic care, for my Eucharistic practice is not welcomed by any pastor: Indeed, this is my third parish in two years of my priesthood (probably an unprecedented amount of moves in the history of the Archdiocese of Denver for young priests.)
2) My Eucharistic care is scrupulosity, and this disease is not being healed by either many hours of prayer, nor my spiritual director, nor the two psychologists that the seminary make me see on these issues. Would we not finally agree that it’s always a bad idea to move a “mental” priest from one parish to another, for he often does much damage?
Either way, that-I-am-not-trying-hard-enough is not an option. As long as I am offering the Ordinary Form of the Mass on Sundays with a pastor espousing a radically different Eucharistic vision, I believe that my choice will be between losing my soul and losing other people’s souls. As ridiculous as that sounds, please remember that the Church has a maxim: Nemo ad impossibilia tenetur: No one is bound to an impossibility. What I am being asked to do here regarding the Eucharist is impossible for my conscience. Why I was [hesitantly] able to write my request to Holy Orders three years ago in my letter to Archbishop Chaput, I can explain in person sometime. The fact is that we only have the future.
Those who know me, know that I can imagine patience on anything but the Eucharist. So, I don’t know how much longer I can delay severe preaching when I am no longer willing to turn a blind eye to 50% of a community that shows up late, wears tiny shorts, chews gum, receives the substantial presence of Jesus Christ Himself, and then begins talking right after Mass (ie, my last two parishes.) I really do not believe this “severe preaching” will save souls, but Christ’s first commandment is to love God, and this comes before his second commandment to love man (aka “be pastoral”). That I see a choice in those, is hopefully why you can understand that my conscience is in such a tortured bind on the Eucharist. I hope that you see that for me, this is different from the issues of many “neo-con” priests who just want to beat people up from the pulpit. For me, the last thing I want to do is be an ass in a chausible, for a chausible stands for charity covering all things.
However, when the priest has a split on following one’s conscience in matters of Divine Law of the Eucharist and particular law to my pastor or even Bishop, the Church has ruled that he must take the path of the former (See Vatican document from June 24, 2000.) Not that it has come to that by now, but I just want you to see that these two parts of my conscience are in a tension that is probably just a couple couple clicks away from cracking. Can I go a month? Probably.
I consider my gift to the Church to not be my knowledge of liturgy, but evangelization. However, the liturgy is no longer something I can compromise on, even for the sake of what I truly want to do: Preach the Gospel of Life of Jesus Christ. In humility, I can show many fruits to my 2 years of priesthood, including somewhere between seven to eleven vocations to priesthood and women’s religious life during my first two years, as well as conversions. In truth, many would tell you about my preaching and perhaps hours in the confessional. But I am very bad at being gentle when the Eucharist is trampled, and I have discovered that this is not a pace that I can set until I am a pastor, something that will probably never happen, as my assimilation to the American customs of the Ordinary Form of the Mass is repeatedly failing in now my third-parish-attempt. Forgive me. I can do no better, despite begging God daily with numerous holy hours for this grace.
For the sake of my parish and my priesthood, I ask you to consider the precedent that the Catholic Church that has found many other options besides parish work for her diocesan priests.
Again, I would rather suffer the diocese-wide embarrassment of being a janitor at the seminary, than see one more host trampled upon, or entering a fourth parish in 2 short years of priesthood. Please consider letting me work as a janitor at the seminary. To work at the seminary would be a safe stop-over before I begin some form of religious life outside the parish (or FSSP within the parish) that will keep my priesthood in tact. I do indeed understand that this email might be perceived as apparent-disobedience, which would inherently delay any such movements to religious life. So please understand that I do not see this email as an escape to religious life, for I know it might in fact hinder the wonderful doors that God has been opening over the past few years. I believe they are two different issues. In fact, as long as you have me offering Ordinary Forms of the Mass in this diocese on Sundays, I can say with sorrow, humility and confidence that I am probably going to be saving the Eucharist while losing souls, due to my love of God being before my love of men. I am at peace and gentle outside the Mass, as man and woman can attest to in my evangelization skills. But, again, my conscience is not stretching in any other direction for the Mass, however, so please don’t understand this to be some type of ultimatum. I just believe there must be another solution to the storm that is surely to break out here. I promise you that I don’t want that storm, but I am not willing to lose my soul, whether it carries a conscience well-formed or scrupulously-formed deep inside. I don’t think we’re going to reform it in the next few months, and nemo ad impossibilia tenetur.
Your humble extension of the one priesthood of Jesus Christ,